Deputy John Robert Kotfila Jr. had just received a 911 call about a wrong-way driver on a stretch of Florida highway. It was nearly 3 a.m. on a Saturday. He had just left a traffic crash investigation and spotted the vehicle, traveling east in the westbound lanes.
Another vehicle was ahead of the deputy. The wrong-way driver wasn’t slowing. The 30-year-old deputy took quick action to get in front of the other vehicle and got her to slow down and move to the side of the road. The deputy and the wrong-way driver hit head-on. The 31-year-old wrong-way driver, who was drunk, died at the scene. The officer was pronounced dead at the hospital. The 41-year-old woman in the vehicle behind the deputy is convinced he took the action he did to save her life.
It was later revealed the wrong-way driver had been drunk.
Now, Kotfila’s family is fighting for change in Massachusetts, his home state. Kotfila was originally from Falmouth. He worked as a crash investigator for the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office in south Florida at the time o the crash. His family gathered recently at the Massachusetts State House to press state lawmakers to pass a drunk driving law that would require in-vehicle breathalyzers for first-time DUI offenders in the Commonwealth.
As our Boston DUI injury lawyers can explain, right now, those in-vehicle breathalyzers – known as ignition interlocks – are only imposed as a requirement under state law if the convicted offender has had at least one prior conviction on the same charge.
Kotfila’s family wants to make it so that every DUI offender must have the device installed.
According to research from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the average drunk driver by the time of their first arrest has driven intoxicated or impaired at least 80 times prior – and gotten away with it. So while we tend to view a first-time DUI offense as a minor mistake or lapse in judgment, the reality is that most of the time, these drivers are gambling not only with their own lives, but with the lives of those around them. This is not a minor violation. It’s a potentially life-altering one and it’s time we start treating it as such.
Every single day, 27 people are killed in the U.S. as the result of drunk driving, and crashes caused by impaired drivers account for one-third of all fatal traffic accidents.
Ignition interlocks have proven to be an effective deterrent. Just in Massachusetts since the devices have been required of repeat offenders in 2006, they have halted impaired drivers from starting their vehicles some 38,000 times. We know this because the devices tally whether a driver breathes into it with alcohol-laden breath. The vehicle will not start if the person has been drinking and their breath-alcohol content exceeds a certain amount.
There are 28 states total that require ignition interlock devices for all offenders – including first-time offenders. Kotfila’s family wants to see Massachusetts join their ranks.
His family said that while the Commonwealth has been a state of many firsts, the delay on this front has been disappointing. But it’s not too late to take action. We hope lawmakers are listening.
If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston drunk driving accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.
Family of fallen officer: In-car breathalyzer necessary for first offenders too, July 28, 2016, By Kristi Palma, Boston.com
More Blog Entries:
Campaign to Bring Back Drink Specials to Massachusetts Underway, July 24, 2016, Boston DUI Injury Lawyer Blog